One doesn’t have to be a specialist in the local football landscape to know it is greatly influenced by media practitioners.
Right from the top management of the game where there is a Fufa Media Committee down to communication officers at club level, you find many active sports journalists embedded in these ranks under the disguise of being ‘consultants.’
Given the relatively low pay in several media houses, I understand the urge to make ends meet and there seems to be no cause for alarm when a scribe doubles as an official or acquaintance to a sports body. But it should not come at an ethical cost.
While the sports journalists are supposed to use their expertise to convey information, many times they abuse these positions to front personal opinions. Nowhere is this more profound than the wrangles between Fufa and the Uganda Super League Limited (USLL).
On one hand are the Fufa diehards, often referred to as bootlickers, who are in good books of the powerbrokers and regularly gain unlimited access to travel with The Cranes. The other side is the USL-leaning scribes, widely castigated as rebels, who are out to paint Fufa as a failed body.
I read with profound amusement the recent allegation that Fufa is using The Cranes bus to carry passengers. In this murky scenario, several journalists have become some sort of spies whose major roles include blackmail, blowing everything out of proportion and to some extent extortion.
Lately, I’ve been reliably informed the Fufa media committee’s busiest task is to nominate candidates for ‘juicy offers’ such as travelling with The Cranes. And all this depends on the level of loyalty exhibited, especially in watering down USLL attacks.
That’s why the recent reconciliation of Fufa President Moses Magogo made peace with his USLL counterpart Julius Kavuma Kabenge has been met with criticism in some quarters because it caught many by surprise.
A reliable source confided to me that Magogo and Kabenge had become sorts of hostages due to the large trail of ‘dependants.’ So, their reconciliation has rendered some sports journalists useless.
In the past, the highly-respected Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) executive would bring members to order, but, at the moment, the situation seems to have spilled over, rendering Uspa powerlessly as camps and cliques continue to tear apart the harmony. In the 1980s and 1990s, Uspa was such a g body whose views were respected at all levels.
For example, in 1994 when Fufa split into two (one headed by John Semanobe and the other by Twaha Kakaire), Uspa came out gly and criticised both factions. Uspa further asked the minister to step in and within a few days, the minister dissolved both ‘federations.’
Back in April 1991, Nakivubo stadium management and Fufa denied Uspa members complimentary entrance during football matches without any convincing reason. In response, Uspa declared a black-out on all Fufa activities. This forced Local Government Minister Bidandi Ssali (who was holding the portfolio of Youth, Culture and Sports )to mediate and in the end sanity prevailed.
I just can’t see that solidarity in today’s Uspa, whose members are tagged depending on the football administrators they associate with. The Uspa of old would punish unethical members who misbehaved or overstepped their mandate. Of the three decades I’ve followed and commented on Ugandan sport, I don’t remember an era when journalists have been embroiled in the management of football like it is today.
I’m not the kind to single out individuals but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize the scale of media entrenchment in sports organs is alarming. In an era when you have an active journalist proudly doubling as a club official or sits on the board of a sports body, don’t expect any objectivity.
Yet, football is not an isolated case the Uganda Olympic Committee (UOC), National Council of Sports as well as several boards of sports institutions are also caught up in this catch-22 situation.
In many ways, the intention is to create a win-win situation for both parties where, by employing active scribes, the sports administrators use them as fire fighters in times of scandals. On the other hand, this translates to bigger bank account balances for the journalists.
All this points to one thing scratch my back and I scratch yours yet in many ways this breeds conflict of interest. Interestingly, rugby and basketball continue to grow at alarming levels yet they don’t involve active sports journalists at management levels.
The author is operations director of The Observer Media Ltd
Source : The Observer